Optional quality terms help farmers to market products made in difficult natural conditions such as mountain products and products of the EU's outermost regions. The EU has also reviewed options for island farming and local farming and direct sales. Voluntary certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs provide assurance that certain aspects of the product or its production method are observed but they are either private or national schemes.
Existing quality terms include:
- Mountain product: In order to use this term, the products' raw materials and the animal feed used must come essentially from mountain areas, while for processed products, production should generally take place in such areas. More information in the report "Labelling of agricultural and food products of mountain farming".
- Product of EU's outermost regions (French Overseas Departments -Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique- and the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands): Outermost regions face difficulties relative to regions in mainland Europe from their remoteness and insularity, including difficult geographical and meteorological conditions. With a view to ensuring greater awareness and consumption of quality agricultural products, whether natural or processed, which are specific to these outermost regions, a graphic symbol (logo) was introduced in 2006. The regulation sets out specific measures in the agricultural sector to remedy the difficulties caused by the specific situation facing the Union’s outermost regions.
Furthermore, the EU carried out a review of options to introduce labels for:
- Local farming and direct sales: The European Commission published on 6 December 2013 a report on the case for a local farming and direct sales labelling scheme (COM(2013) 866 final). The report points out the main features of local farming, short food supply chains and direct sales in the EU, and explores the possibilities of adopting a labelling scheme for these local food systems.
- Island farming: The European Commission adopted on 16 December 2013 a report on the case for an optional quality term "product of island farming" (COM(2013) 888 final), analysing whether establishing a new term "product of island farming" would add value to island product as compared with similar ones, outlining advantages and drawbacks.
Voluntary certification schemes
In addition to these EU schemes, a large number of private and national food quality schemes or logos exist, covering a wide range of initiatives such as "Fair Trade" and operating between businesses (B2B) or between businesses and consumers (B2C). An inventory (pdf) compiled for the European Commission in 2010 counted 441 schemesfor agricultural products and foodstuffs marketed in the EU. In consultation with stakeholders, the European Commission developed guidelines showing best practice for the operations of such schemes.